In West Maui (actually the north part of the hour-glass) the sandy beaches are backed by condos and resorts, from Lahaina going north to Ka'anapali and Kapalua. Kapalua Beach (above) is known as "America's Best Beach," although the national magazine press that bestowed that title is a bit dated. In recent years, contruction cranes seemed to outnumber palm trees along the coast, and crowds can be a hassle. Still, Kapalua delivers the goods for snorkelers, and hikers can take an obscure trail both north and south along the shore.
Development ends north of Kapalua at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. The resort is set well above the coast (to preserve an ancient burial site that is surrounded by a golf course). A short path leads down to D. T. Flemming Beach Park, a locals' beach known mainly for body boarding. A trail from the park takes you out a low-lying point which features 'Dragon's Teeth'—a five-foot high formation with sharpened tufts of whitish trachyte.
The coast is totally wild north of Flemming, though sand beaches are scarce. The main attaction is Honolua Bay, with a marine preserve for snorkelers and a point-break for surfers that dishes out some of the best-riding waves in the Islands.
Surfers need to navigate a steep trail to get to the wave machine. Specators can relax at a cliff right above the action, one of the best places in Hawaii to watch surfers.
Maui Trailblazer has more details on how to find beach access in West Maui that is hidden among resorts and condos, and directions to find the wild attractions on the north coast of the island. It's available at Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com and select independent booksellers.